Monday, June 17, 2013

Music, Drama and Haka Theatre blend together in Te Manawa (The Heart)

An original production for Matariki at Corban Estate Arts Centre

Created in the heart of West Auckland, Te Manawa (The Heart) is a production that connects the audience to Aoteoroa’s roots through an original story inspired by Matariki, the Maori New Year. This music and drama performance has been devised, written and produced by young writers, actors and musicians (aged 10 – 22 years old) mentored by three master practitioners of the performing arts; Jay Williams Youth Arts Director at Corban Estate Arts Centre, Kura Te Ua and Ngarino Watt both of the Haka Theatre company, Hawaki Tu.

The production’s director, Jay Williams says, “Te Manawa brings together emerging artists from different cultural backgrounds – Pasifika, Maori and Middle Eastern – in a blend of creative talent, Maori culture, traditional kapa haka, poi, waiata and a story that reflects elements of Matariki such as navigation, cultivation and the celebration of new beginnings. Every element of this production has been originally created by young artists”.

Guided by Kura Te Ua and inspired by the traditional legend of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, the sky father and the earth mother who lie locked together in a tight embrace before the origin of the universe, scriptwriter Jason Wu, aged 22, created the original plot lines. Jason is best known for his big screen role in Matariki (2010), Michael Bennett’s feature film.

The music created by 20 year old Gibson Harris, has infused a powerful and sublime atmosphere throughout Te Manawa. “It’s exciting to hear how the traditional Maori instruments blend so well with contemporary Orchestra, Pop and R&B rhythms. They not only convey strong feelings but also evoke the powerful Maori Gods”, Gibson says.

The youngest rising star of this constellation of performers is Kiera Sekene, a 10 year old girl from Avondale Primary School who makes her stage debut in the lead role as Paki. Other contributors to the production include well known Pacific artist, John Ioane who has created large scale sculptures to represent the presence of the ancestors.

While being a rich and dramatic performance, Te Manawa also enables children and their families to learn more about the significance of Matariki in Maori culture. Corban Estate Arts Centre has invited Auckland Primary and Intermediate schools to take part in a week-long (24 – 28 June) series of presentations followed by diverse hands-on workshops with a line-up of established visual artists and tutors.

On Saturday 29 June at 11 am, Te Manawa performance will be presented to the public and will be followed by two workshops for children; featuring Takoro (Maori traditional games) and clay waka (canoe). The cost for the performance is $3 per person and the workshops are $3 per child aged 5 – 13 years old. This event will take place at Shed 1 at Corban Estate Arts Centre, 2 Mt Lebanon Lane, Henderson Auckland.

Te Manawa (The Heart) is part of the Auckland Matariki programme and has been generously funded by the ASB Community Trust. For more information please visit: or phone 838 4455.


Performance: Saturday 29 June, 11am – noon
Cost: $3 per person (Children under 5, Free)
Venue: Corban Estate Arts Centre, Shed 1
Workshops: Saturday 29 June, 1 – 2.30pm (Children 5 – 13 years old)
Cost: $3 per child
Venue: Corban Estate Arts Centre, Shed 1, Projectspace


“Set in Hawaiki, Te Manawa is the story of Mauri, a young girl who accidentally discovers time travel. She tries to use her journey to fix things she doesn’t like about her life, but doesn’t count on meeting Koru, a boy who has a secret of his own…”


Kura is a member of Te Waka Huia, Kapa Haka champions at this year’s Te Matatini National Kapa Haka championships. She is also co-owner of Hawaki Haka Indigenous Arts. Kura specializes in Kapa Haka, indigenous dance and Maori movement, while also exploring the evolving fusion of movement that is Haka Theatre. She has a bachelor’s degree in Performing Arts and Maori Performing Arts and is working towards her master’s degree in Indigenous Arts. Kura has been an ambassador for Maori in international festivals all over the world.

Jay Williams of Niuean and Cook Island descent, has over 10 years’ experience as a secondary school teacher specializing in drama and the performing arts. In addition he has been a strong advocate for young people in the communities of West Auckland, developing their skills and talents as actors, musicians and dancers. To this end, he established Phoenix Performing Arts NZ in 2007. Jay adds however, that “As well as developing creative expression, the arts provide a powerful vehicle for young people to grow into confident and strong adults who will make significant contributions to their communities.”

Jay’s work with young people has been recognised by the Vodafone Foundation who have sponsored him for 2013 on their World of Difference programme, to continue to develop his work with young people based at Corban Estate. Jay is also currently a participant in the Leadership New Zealand program for 2013.

Ngarino is also a member of outstanding National Kapa Haka champions, Te Waka Huia and co-owner of Hawaki Haka Indigenous Arts with Kura. He has a bachelor’s degree in and is working towards his master’s degree in Indigenous Studies. Ngarino specializes in both Kapa Haka and Maori Theatre and is exploring the finer details of Haka Theatre. As well as travelling widely throughout the world as a performer, he has participated in many international arts festivals.

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